No international travel till 2021

Forget new pictures from your international holiday, this year we’re filling social media with pictures of previous trips and memories.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told the National Press Club it is “more likely” Australians will be banned from overseas travel until 2021, unless under special exemptions for limited business travel and on compassionate grounds.

Despite the talk of a “travel” bubble with New Zealand and other countries, Senator Birmingham warned travellers not to get their hopes up and to consider a holiday at home.

“I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working … with those countries to find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies,’’ he said.

“But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”

When asked if he was really talking about a travel ban until 2021, Senator Birmingham replied: “Honestly, I think that is more likely the case.”

However, international students may be allowed back into Australia soon, as long as they quarantine for two weeks.

“There is a certain logic that extends to say that international students and other categories of visitors to Australia who stay here for a longer period of time can more easily be accommodated because we can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely to date,’’ Senator Birmingham said.

“International students are the long-stay visitors who go through a similar process, obviously it can be done if a way that achieves the same type of safeguards as we’ve managed for those returning Australian citizens,” he added.

Last month, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed the creation of a “safe corridor” that will allow travel between countries which have successfully contained their coronavirus outbreaks, in a bid to revive tourism once border restrictions are lifted.

Participants in the video call included the Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis, and Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison.

Meanwhile over the weekend, Mitsotakis announced that Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer with priority to health safety.

“When the summer tourist season comes full circle,” said Mitsotakis, “we will be able to say that we did not just manage the first wave of the pandemic in an exemplary way, but that we also set the bar very high on how we can reopen tourism safely – above all else,” he exclaimed.

When asked if opening the country to visitors might jeopardise the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Mitsotakis said that “there is no risk-free approach…we are doing the best we can” and emphasised that the economy will operate under “very robust guidelines” enforcing social distancing and other measures, such as mandatory wearing of masks in transport as well as by all catering personnel.

“I believe the worst (of the pandemic) is over and I don’t think a full lockdown will be necessary…in case of a localised outbreak, we have the medical and civil protection infrastructure in place to tackle it safely and efficiently,” Mitsotakis said.